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The walk to Emmaus, painted by Josef von Führich

Joseph von Führich (February 9, 1800 - March 13, 1876, Vienna), Austrian painter, was born at Kratzau (Czech: Chrastava) in Bohemia. Also known as Josef Ritter von Führich.

Deeply impressed as a boy by rustic pictures adorning the wayside chapels of his native country, his first attempt at composition was a sketch of the Nativity for the festival of Christmas in his father's house. He lived to see the day when, becoming celebrated as a composer of scriptural episodes, his sacred subjects were transferred in numberless repetitions to the roadside churches of the Austrian state, where humble peasants thus learnt to admire modern art reviving the models of earlier ages.

Führich has been fairly described as a Nazarene, a romantic religious artist whose pencil did more than any other to restore the old spirit of Dürer and give new shape to countless incidents of the gospel and scriptural legends. Without the power of Cornelius or the grace of Overbeck, he composed with great skill, especially in outline. His mastery of distribution, form, movement and expression was considerable. In its peculiar way his drapery was perfectly cast.

Essentially creative as a landscape draughtsman, he had still no feeling for colour; and when he produced monumental pictures he was not nearly so successful as when designing subjects for woodcuts. Führich's fame extended far beyond the walls of the Austrian capital, and his illustrations to Tieck's Genofeva, the Lord's Prayer, the Triumph of Christ, the Road to Bethlehem, the Succession of Christ according to Thomas a Kempis, the Prodigal Son, and the verses of the Psalter, became well known. His Prodigal Son, especially, is remarkable for the fancy with which the spirit of evil is embodied in a figure constantly recurring, and like that of Mephistopheles exhibiting temptation in a human yet demoniacal shape.

Führich became a pupil at the Academy of Prague in 1816. His first inspiration was derived from the prints of Dürer and the Faust of Cornelius, and the first fruit of this turn of study was the Genofeva series. In 1826 he went to Rome, where he added three frescoes to those executed by Cornelius and Overbeck in the Palazzo Massimi. His subjects were taken from the life of Tasso, and are almost solitary examples of his talent in this class of composition.

In 1831 he finished the "Triumph of Christ" now in the Raczynski palace at Berlin. In 1834 he was made custos and in 1841 professor of composition in the Academy of Vienna. After this he completed the monumental pictures of the church of St Nepomuk, and in 1854-1861 the vast series of wall paintings which cover the inside of the Lerchenfeld church at Vienna. In 1872 he was pensioned and made a knight of the order of Franz Joseph; 1875 is the date of his illustrations to the Psalms.

His autobiography was published in 1875, and a memoir by his son Lucas in 1886.

Notes

Regarding personal names: Ritter is a title, translated approximately as Knight, not a first or middle name. There is no equivalent female form.

References

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